- accurate record keeping
- precise preparation of financial documentation
- provision of financial advice and information
- budget analysis
- financial and investment planning
- consulting and restricted legal advisory services
- tax consulting and advice
Public accountants perform a broad range of accounting, auditing, and consulting activities for corporations, governments, nonprofit agencies, public bodies, and private firms. Many accountants concentrate on taxation and related services, while others offer advice in such areas as compensation, employment healthcare benefits, and accounting services.
Other public accountants prepare financial documents and statements in accordance with various statutory requirements. Some public accountants work from their own offices and specialize in specific areas.
Also called corporate or managerial accountants, management accountants prepare financial and accounting information for corporations, firms, and other bodies. Their responsibilities include budgeting, financial performance evaluation, cost and asset management, and strategic planning. Depending upon their duties, they may work independently or as parts of larger teams.
Government accountants work with government agencies and examine the accounting records of individuals and private agencies to ensure they comply with rules and statutes. Federal, state, and local departments usually employ professionals with qualifications in accounting. Some professionals with auditing credentials also work as auditors. Typically, such professionals audit the financial records of public bodies, private businesses, and firms and verify their integrity in accordance with existing regulations.
Qualifications and Licensure
Those who aspire to become accounting professionals need at least a bachelor’s degree to begin careers in the field. Many federal and state accounting jobs require a bachelor’s degree in accounting along with appropriate experience in the accounting field. Furthermore, having a professional license or certification is highly desirable. More and more businesses and firms are implementing computerized accounting systems, so exposure to recent advances in technology is also an important aspect of finding appropriate employment. Public accounting professionals can seek certification as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) through their state boards of accountancy.
The American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) arranges the CPA licensing examination, which is a four-part examination conducted over a period of two days. This examination is now computerized and can be taken at various centers across the United States.
Individuals who plan to pursue careers in accounting should have excellent math skills. They should also be adept at preparing reports as well as comprehending and analyzing numerical information. Most accountants begin their careers with accounting firms and progress in their careers by gaining relevant skills and experience. They usually begin in trainee positions and gradually advance to senior positions within a few years. Those with adequate experience can even become supervisors and managers. Some become partners in their organizations, while others may open their own accounting firms.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment prospects for accountants are expected to grow “faster than average” through 2014. The median salary of accountants and auditors was around $50,700 in May of 2004. The private sector usually pays more than the public sector. However, working hours in the private sector can stretch beyond the usual 40 hours per week, especially during the tax season.